Jessica Jerome makes history
Park City is where Jessica Jerome’s ski jumping career began when she joined an after-school jumping program at the age of seven.
So it’s only fitting that, 19 years later, Park City would be where Jerome made history, becoming the first U.S. woman to be named to an Olympic ski jumping team.
The winner of the Olympic trials on Sunday secured a spot in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, where women’s ski jumpers will be allowed to compete for the first time. Jerome clinched the spot with a final two-jump score of 248.5, narrowly squeezing by teammate Lindsey Van, who finished with a score of 246.5.
In front of a packed UOP crowd, where parking was as scarce as water in a desert, Jerome said the moment was perfect.
"I honestly don’t know if I’ve wrapped my head around it yet," she said. "It’s just, it sounds cliché, but it’s a dream come true. I guess [making the Olympics in Park City] is symbolic in some sort of way. I wouldn’t have rather have done trials anywhere else but here in Park City, that’s for sure."
Jerome and all of her teammates couldn’t believe how many fans gathered at the bottom of the hill to cheer on both the men’s and women’s jumpers.
"I have never competed in front of a crowd like this in Park City," Jerome said. "This was the coolest thing I’ve ever seen up at the Olympic Park, by far. It’s awesome."
"I can’t believe how many people showed up and how loud it was," third-place finisher Alissa Johnson added. "More people showed up for this than for most World Cup weekends. It was a lot of fun and we felt a lot of love Park City and Salt Lake still very much have an Olympic spirit."
But, with all the support the team gets from the community, Jerome said she wasn’t completely shocked by the mass of fans.
"It doesn’t totally surprise me," she said. "I think a lot of the support we get from the people in Park City, it’s just we’re a part of the community and there’s a huge sense of community in Park City. There are friends and family and just people who picked up The Park Record the other day who came out to support us. It’s really cool."
Now that her spot in Sochi is secure, Jerome said she can focus on improving over the next month so she can try to land a podium spot in Russia.
"It feels like I can breathe actually," she said. "I feel relieved because I earned that spot. Now I have a good month to really focus on my training and not have to worry about earning my spot."
But, she added, that doesn’t mean she’s going to take it easy in training or in competitions.
"Maybe I’ll sleep a little better at night, but I’ll approach training and the next World Cup competitions the exact same way I would if I did not win today," she said.
Being able to focus on being athletes first and foremost, and not having to battle for inclusion in the Olympics, has made the U.S. women’s team stronger, in Jerome’s opinion.
"When we were doing all that court stuff and trying to be advocates for the sport, all I wanted to do was train," she said. "In retrospect, of course it was a good thing for us to do that, but all I ever wanted was to be an athlete. It’s nice."
"It’s great to be an athlete and finally have that focus on being an athlete and not being a spokesperson for the sport," Van added.
With the ability to focus on the sport they love, Jerome said there’s no limit to what the team can do in Sochi, herself included.
"I’ve got to tell everyone that obviously I’m going to win, right?" she joked. "The girl jumpers are getting stronger every year. Everyone is really close [in terms of ability]. I’m working hard every day and I’m getting closer. I’m confident in myself."
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Park City, South Summit and North Summit continue to shine on the court while their respective girls tennis and soccer seasons have all come to an end.